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My WPS Story: Major Andy Trager
Major Andy Trager is the leadership Instructor for the Pleasant Valley Middle School leadership program. Several members of his family have served in the military including his father. Trager and his brother enlisted and did basic training at the same time. He was the district’s first JROTC leadership instructor and has been responsible for training the program’s new instructors. He has led the program at Pleasant Valley for the past 26 years and has been known for the many community service projects his cadets have led over the years. He plans to retire at the end of the school year.
This is his My WPS Story.
I grew up in Belmond, Iowa. I joined the Iowa National Guard in my junior year of high school and went through basic training. In my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to become a teacher after having been inspired by some of my teachers and wanted to follow in their footsteps.
After high school, I went back to the Army and went through advanced individual training. The Army paid for my education at North Iowa Area Community College and to the University of Northern Iowa where I majored in physical education.
As I was finishing college, I received a letter from Colonel Robert Hester who, at the time, was with the Wichita Public Schools. He was recruiting soldiers in the Troops for Teachers program, and asked if I would be interested in coming to Wichita to become a JROTC leadership instructor.
I decided to apply for the job and came to Wichita for the interview. I had been out of state with my unit doing missions and since it had been a long weekend, my brother picked me up in Des Moines and drove me to Wichita in his brand-new Thunderbird. We were staying at McConnell Air Force Base while we were in town and he let me drive the car to the interview.
On my way to the interview, a lady ran a red light and totaled my brother’s car. An ambulance and the police came to the scene but I refused treatment and asked the police officer if he could drive me to the district offices so I wouldn’t be late for my interview. I made it to the interview and met Colonel Hester with a big goose egg on my head from the accident. I can still remember having to tell my brother that I had wrecked his new car.
We rented a car to drive back to Iowa and I received a call from Colonel Hester asking me if I wanted to start the leadership program here in Wichita.
That was in 1997.
In 2003, while I was teaching a class, I received a call informing me that I had been called up to serve in Iraq. I was gone for 18 months where I served in logistics with a unit that provided security for distinguished visitors such as President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and congressional delegations.
In 2007, I married my wife, Stacy, who serves as a para at Northwest High School. A year later, I was once again deployed to Iraq where I served in logistics for a sustainment brigade.
The students have been a lot of fun to work with over the years. The first group I worked with is now 40 years old; we even have former students now having children in the program.
The goal of the program is to teach students self-discipline, self-confidence, and leadership skills they can use to help prepare them for the future, whether it be college, the military or the workforce.
I’m proud of the many students we’ve had in this program. My first commander is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in music education. Another student is a head nurse in a local burn unit. Several have gone on to great accomplishments.
One of the things I have been most proud of during my time with the program is the community service we’ve done. Being able to build relationships with the cadets through that work has made a real difference.
Several years ago, a couple of Pleasant Valley teachers, staff members and I took a group of students down to Texas for a week to help rebuild houses after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. We also raised $21,000 for the Kansas Honor Flight and our students served as guardians for 11 veterans. For the past several years, we have held Toys For Tots toy drives and helped staff the Cars For Charity Car Show. Our cadets have been involved in more than 60,000 hours of community service over the years.
I’ve received several commendations for the community service we’ve done including receiving the Wichita city medallion from former Wichita mayor Bob Knight; the governor’s volunteer award from former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack; the governor’s volunteer award from former Kansas governor Bill Graves; and a letter from former president Bill Clinton for being nominated for the President’s Service Award in 1999. I was also proud to have received the district’s Good Apple Award.
When I think about retiring, the thing I’ll miss most are the students and staff at the school and working with the students on all the community service projects we’ve done.
To read more My WPS Stories, or to share your own, go to usd259.org/mywpsstory.
Posted Sept. 1, 2022